There should be little doubt that the 2012 USA Softball Women's National Team is the favorite to repeat as champions at the 2012 World Cup of Softball.
The United States women had a great 2011 World Cup of Softball campaign that saw them win their fifth title over Japan, and with the prospect of the sixth on the horizon I can only imagine how tough they will be to beat in this tournament.
That said, the field is going to be tough—it also features teams from the Netherlands, Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia and Brazil—so we're bound to see some incredible fast-pitch softball.
Here's a rundown of each game and my predictions for the tournament:
Tournament information and schedule via usasoftball.com
Puerto Rico vs. Brazil
Both teams are making their first appearance, but Puerto Rico boasts Aleima Lopez, fresh off a senior year in high school that saw her bat .566 with 46 RBI and 36 runs scored. Advantage, Puerto Rico.
Prediction: Puerto Rico 5 (1-0), Brazil 3 (0-1)
Canada vs. Netherlands
Canada finished third in last years World Cup, beating the eventual champions USA in the process. Netherlands on the other hand haven't played in the event since 2009. I'll give the experience edge to Canada.
Prediction: Canada, 6 (1-0), Netherlands 3 (0-1)
Australia vs. Brazil
Brazil is already on the second game of the day, while Australia is rested and finished fourth in this tournament last year. Unfortunately for Brazil, I don't see a bounce-back game.
Prediction: Australia 6 (1-0), Brazil 4 (0-2)
USA vs. Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is also on their second game of the day, and they're squaring off with the defending champions. The USA has won this tournament five out of six times. I don't see an upset on the first day.
Prediction: USA 5 (1-0), Puerto Rico 2 (1-1)
Brazil vs. Netherlands
Brazil is on a cold streak at this point, and the Netherlands are talented enough to get a bounce-back game.
Prediction: Netherlands 3 (1-1), Brazil 1 (0-3)
Canada vs. Australia
Canada finished third last year, and considering they beat the USA in the process I have to assume they believe they have a shot to be contenders this year. Contenders don't drop this game on the second day.
Prediction: Canada 4 (2-0), Australia 2 (1-1)
Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico
This is a huge game here for Puerto Rico, who are coming in with one win and one loss. They are extremely talented, and that should be enough to allow them to beat a Netherlands team that has already played once today.
Prediction: Puerto Rico: 4 (2-1), Netherlands 3 (1-2)
USA vs. Australia
There's not a team in the tournament strong enough to stick with a rested USA team. Australia lost a ton of momentum losing to Canada earlier, which I don't see them getting back.
Prediction: USA: 7 (2-0), Australia 2 (1-2)
USA vs. Netherlands
USA has all the momentum in this tournament, while Netherlands just lost a game to Puerto Rico. First game of the day on Saturday, and I see the United States coming out strong after only playing two games so far.
Prediction: USA 5 (3-0), Netherlands 1 (1-3)
USA vs. Canada
This is arguably the tournament's biggest game. Canada knows they can beat the United States and both teams are coming into this game without a loss. I just have a hard time seeing the United States losing this matchup, knowing that it may be their toughest on the way to a title.
Close game, but the USA will make one more play to win.
Prediction: USA 3 (4-0), Canada 2 (2-1)
Puerto Rico vs. Australia
Australia is on a two-game losing streak at this point, while Puerto Rico can still keep themselves in contention with a win. I don't see them losing this game with everything that is on the line.
Prediction: Puerto Rico 5 (3-1), Australia 2 (1-3)
USA vs. Brazil
Ice-cold Brazil won't have a chance against a USA team with championship aspirations.
Prediction: USA 5 (5-0), Brazil 2 (0-4)
Netherlands vs. Australia
Netherlands are nearing the bottom of this tournament in wins, while Australia can at least salvage a respectable tournament with a win here. I see Australia being a bit more motivated for this game.
Prediction: Australia 3 (2-3), Netherlands 2 (1-4)
Puerto Rico vs. Canada
After a disappointing loss to the USA, Canada is going to come out motivated, knowing that they still have a shot at redemption.
Prediction: Canada: 3 (3-1) Puerto Rico 2 (3-2)
Canada vs. Brazil
At this point, Canada knows what's on the line and they're going up against a team that hasn't found a win in this tournament. Even after just playing a game, this is one they can't lose, and they wont.
Prediction: Canada 5 (4-1), Brazil 0 (0-5)
Here is how the teams will look heading into the final day:
1. USA (5-0)
2. Canada (4-1)
3. Puerto Rico (3-2)
4. Australia (2-3)
5. Netherlands (1-4)
6. Brazil (0-5)
No. 5 (Netherlands) vs. No. 6 (Brazil)
I expect Brazil to come out with some team pride and a ton of motivation to get this win.
Prediction: Brazil 4, Netherlands 3
No. 3 (Puerto Rico) vs. No. 4 (Australia)
Puerto Rico was pretty good throughout this tournament, but they weren't good enough. I expect them to finish on a good note.
Prediction: Puerto Rico 5, Australia 3
No. 1 vs. No. 2...
No. 1 (United States) vs. No. 2 (Canada)
This is going to be an exceptional title game.
These two teams battled it out on Saturday, with the USA coming away with a close win, so Canada knows that they have a shot at beating this powerful and undefeated USA team.
In the end though, the USA women's team has rolled through this tournament, and I don't see any way that momentum can be stopped.
Crown the USA women's softball team with another World Cup of Softball victory, their sixth.